U.S. military grounds F-35 Fighter
Marine Corps F-35B test flight
February 22nd, 2013
05:54 PM ET

U.S. military grounds F-35 Fighter

By Mike Mount

The U.S. military on Friday grounded the F-35 fighter jet due to a crack in an engine component that was discovered during a routine inspection in California.

The Pentagon said in a statement that it was too early to assess the impact on the fleet of jets designed for use by the Navy, Air Force and Marines.

The nearly $400 billion Joint Strike Fighter is the Pentagon's most expensive weapons system. It is currently being tested.

The program has been beset by cost overruns and various technical problems during development.

Currently, there 51 planes in the F-35 fleet.

Panetta: World is watching U.S. on budget
February 13th, 2013
07:01 PM ET

Panetta: World is watching U.S. on budget

By Mike Mount

In his final press briefing as defense secretary, Leon Panetta expressed concern over how the world will view the United States if it fails to avert steep budget cuts due to take effect in two weeks.

"What they (other countries) worry about is what I worry about, which is whether or not we can govern and whether or not we can face the tough decisions that have to be made and resolve those," Panetta said on Wednesday about the budget uncertainty.

Mandatory budget cuts impacting much of the government, also known as sequester, would kick in on March 1 if no deal is struck between the White House and Congress to avoid, defer or otherwise soften them.
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FIRST ON CNN: Panetta to keep security detail in retirement
February 13th, 2013
12:12 PM ET

FIRST ON CNN: Panetta to keep security detail in retirement

Outgoing Defense Secretary Leon Panetta will have a full detail of security agents assigned to him for the foreseeable future after he leaves office, an administration official confirmed to CNN Wednesday.

Federal security personnel will be assigned to Panetta due to concerns about potential future threats against him both as a result of his time as CIA director and secretary of defense, the official said.

FULL POST

February 6th, 2013
10:16 AM ET

FIRST ON CNN: Panetta to recommend pay cut for military

By Barbara Starr

Just days before he leaves office, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta is recommending military pay be limited, effectively decreasing troop salaries next year.

Panetta will recommend to Congress that military salaries be limited to a 1% increase in 2014. The Pentagon has calculated that the Labor Department's 2014 Employment Cost Index is expected to be above 1% but wants to still cut back on pay because of "budget uncertainties," a department official told CNN. In 2013, a 1.7% increase was approved, based on the index, which has been the basis for military pay for the last several years.

Three Pentagon officials have confirmed details of the plan to CNN. The Joint Chiefs of Staff have also agreed to Panetta's proposed pay plan. Final approval for the pay would come from Congress in the form of the 2014 budget.

The recommendation is tied to the Defense Department's 2014 budget recommendation, which was expected to be sent to Congress this month, one of the officials said. But the officials acknowledge it is going to be seen as an effort to push Congress to stop the automatic budget cuts that could go into effect if no deal is reached on spending reductions. FULL POST

High-tech military detection gear delivered to aid in Alabama hostage surveillance
Jimmy Lee Dykes
February 4th, 2013
06:40 PM ET

High-tech military detection gear delivered to aid in Alabama hostage surveillance

By Barbara Starr

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta approved a request from the FBI for high-tech military detection equipment to assist in surveillance on the underground bunker in Alabama where a 5-year-old boy was held hostage, CNN has learned.

The hostage situation ended Monday when FBI agents entered the bunker and freed the boy. The 65-year-old hostage-taker is dead, law enforcement officials on the scene said.

The military detection equipment was delivered on site, according to a military official, but it could not immediately be determined if the equipment was used before or during the rescue.

Three Defense Department officials tell CNN that the equipment requested was similar to the technology used in war zones to detect buried explosives. Some small number of troops would have been needed to operate the equipment on-site.

“Panetta personally approved it” said one senior Defense official, emphasizing the military was prepared to offer whatever it could to assist in rescuing the child. That official emphasized the involvement of the military was strictly limited to offering technical assistance and gear not readily available to civilian law enforcement.

U.S. military personnel would have played “no role” in the assault, the official said, as U.S. troops are not permitted to undertake civilian law enforcement action.

U.S. steps up involvement in Mali
A Malian soldier stands amid debris Saturday, January 26, in the key central town of Konna, which has been under French and Malian army control since last week. It was taken on January 11 by Islamist groups.
January 28th, 2013
04:36 AM ET

U.S. steps up involvement in Mali

By Ingrid Formanek and Dana Ford

The United States is intensifying its involvement in Mali, where local and French forces are battling Islamic militants.

It will support the French military by conducting aerial refueling missions, according to the Pentagon, which released a short statement Saturday following a call between Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian.

"The leaders also discussed plans for the United States to transport troops from African nations, including Chad and Togo, to support the international effort in Mali. Secretary Panetta and Minister Le Drian resolved to remain in close contact as aggressive operations against terrorist networks in Mali are ongoing," it read.

U.S. policy prohibits direct military aid to Mali because the fledgling government is the result of a coup. No support can go to the Malian military directly until leaders are chosen through an election.

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Filed under: Mali • Panetta
January 14th, 2013
04:48 PM ET

U.S. looks to support France's Mali offensive

By Chris Lawrence

The United States military could provide logistical and intelligence support in the French effort against Islamist rebels in Mali, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said Monday.

The U.S. will "provide whatever assistance it can" as part of what Panetta said was the U.S. global efforts against al Qaeda.

"We have a responsibility to go after Al Qaida wherever they are. And we've gone after them in the FATA. We're going after them in Yemen and Somalia. And we have a responsibility to make sure that Al Qaida does not establish a base for operations in North Africa and Mali," Panetta told reporters traveling with him to Europe.

FULL POST

Panetta orders defense cuts before Congress does
January 10th, 2013
06:14 PM ET

Panetta orders defense cuts before Congress does

By CNN Staff

U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has ordered the military to begin implementing cost-cutting measures aimed at mitigating the risk of significant budget cuts should Congress fail to reach a deal in coming months to avert or soften them.

"We have no idea what the hell is going to happen," Panetta said Thursday.

He has asked services to begin "prudent" measures, including curtailing maintenance for non-critical activities and delaying hiring.

The measures must be "reversible" and minimize harmful impacts on military readiness, Panetta told reporters at the Pentagon.

Military departments have also been told to report on how they would implement deep automatic spending cuts, called sequester, and enforce unpaid leave for civilian employees should the reductions occur.

Panetta and Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey have warned Congress that uncertainty over the absence of a long-term spending agreement, debt-ceiling concerns and the lack of a full congressional budget process is extremely harmful.
FULL POST


Filed under: Budget • Defense Spending • Military • Panetta • Secretary of Defense • Sequestration
January 10th, 2013
06:03 PM ET

Karzai comes with wish list

By Mike Mount

Afghan President Hamid Karzai showed up to the Pentagon on Thursday with a wish list of military equipment to ensure the security of his country by the time NATO forces leave at the end of 2014.

In return, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta had a message to deliver – the United States wants to make sure Afghanistan does not become a terrorist safe haven again.

Karzai's meeting with Panetta, occurring under a cloud of mistrust between both countries, was expected to have some tough talk about the future of Afghanistan. But publicly, the image seemed like there was no trouble at all.

It was the first stop for the Afghan president who was to have dinner with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Thursday and meet with President Barack Obama on Friday.
FULL POST

January 7th, 2013
06:57 PM ET

Obama makes telling foreign policy picks

President Barack Obama said Monday he will nominate former Sen. Chuck Hagel, a Republican, to become Defense Secretary and tapped his chief counterterrorism adviser, John Brennan, to become director of the Central Intelligence Agency. CNN's Barbara Starr reports on the message Obama is sending about foreign policy in his second term with these two top national security post nominations.

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